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Level-up Your Roadway Reconstruction Game


Remember Frogger, the video game where you navigated a frog across a wide and busy street? And just when you thought you were making progress, various hazards would block you? Surrounded by forests, mines, lakes, and outdoor recreation areas, Biwabik is a popular northern Minnesota destination. But broken and uneven sidewalks, standing water during heavy rains, and mixed commercial, residential, and tourist traffic have harried residents and visitors like a challenging level of Frogger for years. Now, that is being addressed by a major reconstruction project designed by Widseth’s engineers, scientists, and surveyors.

Biwabik’s charming Bavarian themed Main Street is also the heavily traveled State of Minnesota Trunk Highway 135 carrying industrial logging and mining trucks in addition to residential and tourist traffic. Sidewalks damaged by frost heaving line the roadway, and buried below it are an outdated and undersized stormwater system and a contaminated environmental superfund site.

Widseth’s team of engineers, designers, surveyors, and environmental scientists, working with MnDOT, the city staff, consultants, and the local Biwabik community, developed solutions to these safety issues while also implementing updates to make the town more pedestrian and bicycle friendly and ADA accessible. Construction began May 2020.

One of the major design features for the new downtown area was putting the highway on a ‘street diet’ for traffic calming. By reducing the lane footprint from two lanes each direction to one lane each and adding curb bump-outs at intersections, pedestrians will have a shorter distance to cross Main Street’s intersections. Plus, all intersections will be ADA accessible with curb ramps. New lower profile curb and gutter will make it easier for people getting in and out of their cars at the sidewalks, particularly at the post office.

Redesigning the stormwater system presented many challenges. The existing city street storm sewer was not designed to handle major storm events. MnDOT standards require stormwater to be picked up by a storm sewer before it crosses a highway. But this is exactly what the water does during a heavy rain here’flows unimpeded across the road. So we designed all new major storm sewer structures and underground trunk lines to capture the water as it should. Since the project area is part of a Superfund site, several clearances required review to ensure the construction crew and community are not exposed to contaminated materials.

Widseth has established a staging and phasing plan for detours during the two-year construction process. The project is designed to be constructed in multiple stages with separate commercial truck and local traffic detours and with clear and appropriate signing. The local side streets normally don’t see high volume traffic, so care has been taken to work with city officials to come up with an acceptable plan to stage the construction and to safely carry the traffic through town.

Construction is anticipated to be complete fall 2021.

Is your community facing its own Frogger challenges? From roadway traffic to pedestrian safety to environmental concerns, Widseth is ready to work with you to conquer your city’s infrastructure issues.

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